Wilson’s late try allows Newcastle to scramble off the bottom
Mark Wilson’s long arms ripped victory from the grasp of Northampton and gifted Newcastle a crucial boost in their attempt to start climbing the Premiership table.
The England flanker’s dramatic try, forcing the ball against the base of a post deep into injury time as Saints failed to hold on having lost Dan Biggar to the sin bin, brought screams of joy and relief from the visiting players and their supporters.
Falcons lifted themselves off the foot of the table above Sale and director of rugby Dean Richards enthused: “Mark did very well and I’m pleased he got that score. All the internationals who came back boosted the team.
“The ref could have given a penalty try at the end but I was happy we won by scoring ourselves. Northampton are a good team and this is a big win for the guys. It has not bothered us where we are [in the table] because we have the resolve in the team to keep us winning in difficult circumstances.”
Richards’ unhappy counterpart Chris Boyd admitted: “The dressing room is like a morgue at the moment. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. We should have had the game done and dusted by halftime but failed to convert pressure into more tries. It’s a big disappointment.”
Wilson’s try spoiled Dylan Hartley’s 250th appearance for Saints who led most of the way after falling behind to an early Toby Flood penalty.
It was a first half of plenty of physicality and adventure from the home side but their rivals’ defence stood firm. And it was with an ironic groan, that when referee Matthew Carley penalised Saints at a ruck, Flood drifted his second penalty over to increase the advantage. The kick was made easier when Courtney Lawes cost his side 10 yards by complaining to Carley.
But the angst of the home fans finally turned to cheers of relief and joy when a fine run from Jacobus Reinach saw him beat three attempted tacklers and dart over for his side’s opening try. It had taken half an hour for what seemed the inevitable Saints try and Biggar’s conversion edged the hosts’ noses in front for the first time.
Carley received a sarcastic roar of approval from the Saints supporters when he penalised Falcons on the stroke of half-time for collapsing a scrum. Saints capitalised with a kick into the corner but blew a line-out after a second penalty and had to be satisfied with a one-point lead at the break.
Newcastle began to flag, having had to soak up plenty of heavy pressure, and the gaps began to open wide. Flanker Teimana Harrison found a big one, taking Lawes’ pass in his stride and fed the supporting Reinach. There was no stopping the scrum-half again as he left his tacklers swiping at mid-air and the South African’s second try – under the posts and converted by Biggar – gave his side some breathing space.
A rare Falcons sight at the Saints line almost saw Vereniki Goneva score a stunning individual try. He showed awareness, power and pace to surge down the right flank but a last-ditch tackle from full-back Ahsee Tuala just thwarted the Fijian-born wing as he tried to reach out and ground the ball.
Falcons had their tails up and sensed taking something from the game. Brett Connon reduced the lead to five points The youngster had just walked onto the field as a replacement for the dazed Simon Hammersley, taken off to be assessed, but showed his coolness and control to send a long-range kick through the posts.
Then came a dramatic and frantic finish with Falcons camped on the Northampton line desperately trying to muscle their way across. Carley could easily have sent a Saint to the sin bin well before he signalled for Biggar to leave for constant foul play.
The home side finally cracked and one more push saw Wilson reach out for the crucial try. Flood’s conversion saw the visitors earn a win which will lift their spirits heading into European battle next weekend.
Scores 0-3 Flood pen; 0-6 Flood pen; 5-6 Reinach try; 7-6 Biggar con; 12-6 Reinach try; 14-6 Biggar con; 14-9 Connon pen; 14-14 Wilson try; 14-16 Flood con. Northampton A Tuala; A Kellaway (O Sleightholme. 68), F Dingwall, P Francis, T Naiyaravoro; D Biggar, C Reinach; A Waller (F Van Wyk, 63), D Hartley (R Marshall, 73), P Hill (P Franks, 40); D Ribbans (A Ratuniyarawa, 67), C Lawes, J Gibson, L Ludlam, T Harrison. Yellow Card Biggar. Newcastle S Hammersley (B Connon, 70); V Goneva, C Harris, J Williams (P Bettencourt., 63), S Sinoti; T Flood, S Stuart (S Takulua, 49); S Lockwood (A Brocklebank, 57), K Cooper (G McGuigan, 50), D Wilson (L Mulipola, 55); C Green, S Robinson (A Davison, 40), M Wilson, J Hardie, N Nagusa (G Graham, 67). Referee: M Carley.
Collision course: Jamie Gibson, of Northampton, tackles Newcastle’s Sonatane Takulua